Kan, Tigers ready for challenge

“I’m not a freshman anymore,” Kan said. “I’m not just going to come out of the blue.”
Missouri Tigers sophomore Carly Kan digs the ball from a Boilermaker offensive attack on December 7, 2013, at the Hearnes Center. Kan had 8 digs in the loss against the Boilermakers in 4 games. Maneater File Photo

Carly Kan took Southeastern Conference volleyball by storm.

Out of nowhere, the then-freshman defensive specialist from Honolulu dominated opponents throughout the country, racking up countless honors including All-SEC team and SEC Freshman of the Year.

Now they know. Kan knows the target on her back and nagging pressure to serve as a young leader on a team with ten underclassmen.

“I’m not a freshman anymore,” she said. “I’m not just going to come out of the blue.”

As the only SEC player to average 3.00 kills and 3.00 digs per set, Kan stunned opponents while helping Missouri win a conference title and go undefeated in the regular season.

And with the graduation of All-Americans Molly Kreklow and Lisa Henning, young leaders like Kan and sophomore Loxley Keala will have to step up into leadership roles as underclassmen.

“The assistant coaches have definitely talked to me about being more vocal, and I’ve tried that a lot this summer,” Kan said. “Last year I didn’t talk very much, but this year the coaches and my teammates have encouraged me to talk more on the court.”

The leadership comes with an added amount of pressure. Kan’s numbers speak for themselves, but her teammates want more. Without the vocal presence of Kreklow and Henning, seniors Emily Wilson, Sarah Meister and Whitney Little are encouraging Loxley and Kan to embrace leadership roles.

With the Tigers ranked third in the preseason SEC poll, teams are aware of Kan’s on-court authority. This time, they’ll be ready for the sophomore who posted a .962 service reception percentage.

“It’s just something she’s going to have to deal with when she’s coming around into her sophomore season; everybody knows who you are,” coach Wayne Kreklow said. “So that’s a role she’s going to have to accept. We know that people are going to key in on her and it’s not always going to be perfect.”

Expectations are high for the Tigers, but losing an All-American center and outside hitter forced Kreklow to remodel his team this summer — with Kan at the core of the rebuild.

With 12 other SEC teams looking for redemption from last year, Kan knows the importance of putting the past in the past. Loxley echoed the thought: This is a new year, and nothing is given without being earned.

“We still want to go into a mindset of ‘we can take anyone,’ and that’s similar to how we’re going to do it this year,” Kan said.

After playing overseas this summer for the U.S. Collegiate National Team, Kan said she has gained confidence, and is ready for the challenge.

No SEC volleyball team has won back-to-back championships since Florida in 2008, but the sophomore has already been hard at work, ready to defend a title by putting the distractions and pressure aside. She’s blocked everything out except volleyball and herself; the only thing on Carly Kan’s mind is Carly Kan.

“This year I’m really trying to focus on me, not the other people,” she said. “If I worry about the pressure, then that’ll get to me.”

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